Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Dork Review: Napier's Bones

2 + 2 = magic?

It does if the book is Napier's Bones by Derryl Murphy. I must be honest, I never planned to pick up this book until after I saw Mr. Murphy on a panel at Ad Astra where he described the magic system, and then I couldn't wait to pick it up.

I'm, well, not exactly math-phobic but it was my least favorite subject growing up, so a book entitled after a mathematical tool is not something that would normally appeal to me. And that would have been my loss. Napier's Bones starts off like a rocket and doesn't let up on the throttle. The action is well written and believable, even when it dips into the fantastic. Add on top of that an intriguing magic system that embraces mathematics without clubbing the reader over the head with it, so that even the math averse will understand and enjoy it, and you have an amazing read.

When I say this novel doesn't let up, I mean it. It starts with Dom, who we find out is what's called a numerate (right now I'm resisting the urge to call him a mathemagician) and able to work magic with the numerical ecology that permeates modern life, barely survives the backlash from a confrontation out in the desert while searching for a powerful pieced of mojo, an item infused with mathematical essence that a numerate can draw upon. Mojo comes in many different flavors, from sports memorabilia to calculating tools, each with its own abilities and problems. As I said, this is a well thought out magic system and the inclusion of mojo is one of its masterpieces.

Dom ends up with a ghost in his head and an apprentice by his side while running from a force from the past that could change the way the world's numbers, and therefore the world, work. Murphy does a splendid job of making this threat believable without being over the top, scary without it becoming cartoonish. Even better, I found the book's ending satisfying, which can be hard to find sometimes.

I highly recommend checking out Napier's Bones. Especially if it motivates Derryl Murphy to keep on writing. I want to see what else his mind can produce.

Napier's Bones can be found here on Amazon.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Importance of Having a Schedule

Arrrgh!! (Sound of a head getting thumped on a desk)

Ok, sorry, had to get that off my chest. Right now I'm annoyed with myself, and rightly so. You see, I had an entire long weekend with which to write, except for my regular kendo class on Saturday and dinner with my parents on Sunday, and I was looking forward to getting a lot done. Guess what actually happened?

So far, not much. Arrgh!

Truth is, this weekend has sucked for me for getting writing done. Sucked as in I keep getting sucked into things other than writing. Of course Space has to be running a marathon of the new Doctor Who specials. I've never been a huge fan, mostly because I was always busy doing something when the show was on, but the Doctor is addictive and I have enjoyed Matt Smith as the new Doctor. Yes, I did see the first episode of the new season and did enjoy it. Sigh, now I'm probably going to be watching it. Thank goodness I don't have HBO otherwise I'd be watching Game of Thrones as well.

So instead of writing that last two days I've been watching TV. This is why it's important for me to have a schedule and keep to it, so that these temptations are easier to resist. Every night, from about 6-8PM, or 9PM depending upon the night, I'm writing. A solid two hour block dedicated to just that one activity, no exceptions. That's how I was able to write 50,000 words in just over two months. That's how I'll continue on writing and honing my skills.

At least today I was able to pull myself away from the TV and get something done. I'm over halfway through the revisions of my first novel, and I just completed one of the largest chapters. I'll have to work extra hard tomorrow to make up for all the goofing off I've done so far this weekend.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Dork Review: Triptych

Wow, it's been a long time since I've reviewed a book. Two reasons for this. A lot of what I've been reading lately is either non-fiction or older stuff that really doesn't need a review. Also, I've been so wrapped up in my own writing I haven't had time to surface for air and read something else.

So, where to start on Triptych by J.M. Frey. Hmmmm... the first thing should be, what exactly is a triptych? Some of you might be thinking "Well, isn't that some kind of weird alieny thing-a-ma-jobbie?"

Actually no. A triptych is a work consisting of three painted or carved panels that are hinged together and was a popular standard format for altar paintings from the Middle Ages. The idea of three is a very important theme in this work, and is used by Frey overtly and subtly very well.

This is a book that has a definite message about gender politics, but it doesn't thump the reader heavily over the head with it. There's drama without descending to level of cheap melodrama. There's action, romance, betrayal, love and hate all mixed together in characters that come off as believable. Especially that aliens! That, for me, is the best part. Kalp, the main alien character of the book comes of not only as a believable, well-rounded individual, but at the same time you can tell that he's alien and that everything he sees is confusing and new, without feeling that Frey is just masking a human viewpoint with a few alien words or ideas. That is a feat that many authors would find difficult, and she pulls it off without seeming to break a mental sweat. Kudos on that!

However, as much as I enjoyed this book there were mechanical elements I found distracting or slightly frustrating. I'm probably more sensitive to these things right now as I'm working on my own novel, but I did find some of the action scenes felt lacking. They felt chaotic and unfinished, at least to me. A large part of that is likely due to the viewpoint character's being used, so it may be a stylistic choice that was made. Also, some of the descriptive sections early on seemed too long, but again, I think this is more a matter of preference than anything else.

I really did enjoy this book, and look forward to reading the next thing J.M. Frey releases. It can be found here on Amazon

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Twittering About

Sigh, yes, I've finally opened a Twitter account. I've been considering doing so for awhile now, for various reasons. First, I can update Twitter while mobile a hell of a lot easier than I can update this blog. Second, there are a lot of people I'd like to follow via Twitter, and that list seems to keep growing each day. Finally, part of being a writer/author these days is having a presence on social media, including Twitter, so I should jump on and get used to it so that when I actually need to use it for promoting myself I used to the dang thing.

I doubt I'll be using it too much right now, but hey, gotta bite the bullet eventually.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ad Astra 2011 Con Report

So this marks the second time I've been to Ad Astra. I meant to announce I was going on this blog beforehand, but since I was really, really busy up to the time I left and I wasn't going to be on any panels I ended forgetting to do it. Whoops.

How was the con you ask? Awesome. Maybe not as awesome as last year for me, but that might have more to do with the fact that this is my third con, the other being ConCept in Montreal, so I actually now have some experience with them so the blush is off the rose as they say. Going to a convention is no longer new and fresh, so that alters my perception of it.

Still, I met a lot of awesome people that I hope the see again. It seems that at every convention I go to I end up running into Erik Buchanan and Marie Bilodeau who are published by Dragon Moon Press. Both are very lovely people and I hope if you've ever at a con you get a chance to meet them. Fair warning though, after meeting them you will be compelled to by any and all books they put out. I'm up to date on Eric's books, but slacking behind on buying Marie's. Hmmmm... they're both in a collection coming out in August... so I could order that and some of hers at the same time, or wait until SFContario and make a mass purchase and get it all signed... hmmm.... decisions, decisions.

Oh, and before I forget to say it, if you have a chance go and see one of Marie's storytelling shows. I caught her performance on Friday night at the con and it was amazing.

Also on Friday night I attended a panel on using conventions to your advantage with Justine Lewkowicz, Scott Edelman, and Ian Keeling. Justine hosts an online show called Bookends which I will likely add to my every growing list of things to keep tabs on, especially if she's even half as engaging and personable on camera as she is in person. All three panelists handed out some great advice, both during that panel and when I ran into them at other panels or at the bar.

So what were some of the other highlights of the con? Oh, getting for me personally, getting to say to Howard Tayler how much I enjoy his webcomic and the Writing Excuses podcast he's a part of. That, and seeing the awesome boots he had on. Seriously, these boots were impressive. I think they could withstand a force five hurricane they looked so solid. With those boots I think Howard's about a third of the way to becoming a superhero.

Another Howard related moment was seeing the look on his face after Mercedes Lackey stated, in the very first panel of the convention I was at and that they both were on, that she was a fan of Schlock Mercenary, his webcomic. I swear he became a bit choked up at hearing this, and was speechless for a minute. It's not everyday that one of the giants of SF/Fantasy says she loves your work.

Speaking of Mercedes Lackey, I only saw her a couple times over the con but she came off as a lovely person and a real trooper. She was there to the very end of the convention, even showing up to give a couple of the male convention runners a significant kiss during the closing ceremonies. All in all, just a lovely and fun person who I hope I get the chance to meet and talk too in depth at some point.

Speaking of the closing ceremonies, they had a raffle and I won something! I ended up walking way from the con with a piece of artwork by Howard Tayler, a print in color with signatures from the Guests of Honor at the con. It was the one piece of artwork I really and truly wanted, and I ended up getting it. Even though E-bay beacons with the siren call of seeing it, I will resist. I want that sucker framed and on my wall, and it will be a cold day in the entirety of Hell before I give it up. Seriously, it's awesome. I may have to take a picture of it and post it up some time.

So, summing things up, I had an awesome time, slept and ate way too little, walked from one end of the hotel to another (seriously, I should grab a pedometer before the next con and track how much walking I actually do), met a ton of awesome people, and snagged a load of books to review so expect some Dork Reviews on those in the near future.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Dork Review: Sucker Punch

As promised, here's my review on Sucker Punch, the latest film to come out from Zack Snyder. It's been a couple days since I've seen it, the delay due to Ad Astra prep (more on that later) and so I could have time to mull it over.

First off, I enjoyed this movie. In fact, I'd put my enjoyment of it right up there with Battle: Los Angeles, which makes sense since they are both action films. Sucker Punch is definitely the more thoughtful of the two.

What I do find surprising is how viciously this flick has been savaged by the critics. Every person I know who's gone and seen it has loved it. Of course, just about everyone I've talked too that has seen it has been male, so that might be part of it. Yes, the film does have pretty girls in skimpy outfits, but if you look past that it's a story of a young woman in a terrible situation retreating into a fantasy world where she has greater control. A fantasy world where she is the primary mover, which can be seen to bleed out into the real world a bit.

Add on top of that the mythic undertones running throughout the film. Recently I've been reading The Hero of 1000 Faces and it's fascinating, at least to me, to pick up on some of the items raised in the book showing up in a movie. It just demonstrates how much modern movies have replaced mythology, and how some story elements are universal, whether in film or in print.

The ending of the movie lives up to it's title. I don't want to ruin it for you, but it's enough to say that I did find it powerful, and even a little unexpected.

I recommend going and seeing Sucker Punch. So far I've seen three movies by Zack Snyder. I own two of them and plan to add this movie to my collection when it comes out on Blu-ray.